Obama called at least three key Republicans — Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Mark Kirk (Ill.) and Rob Portman (Ohio) — in the run-up to the vote, signaling that he is willing to discuss other spending cuts.
“When he called, the president did not eliminate the possibility of paying for an extension, but he did not get into how exactly he would do that,” Collins said Tuesday.
White House advisers said that Obama is willing to discuss spending offsets only for a longer-term extension of unemployment benefits, not the three-month bill under consideration.
That sets up a delicate negotiation. Of the six Republican senators who voted yes Tuesday — Collins, Portman, Heller, Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Dan Coats (Ind.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) — five said they were unlikely to support the legislation as it is currently drafted. The six voted with 54 members of the Democratic caucus to approve a motion allowing the measure to move ahead, but Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) will need to clear a second 60-vote hurdle to bring it to a final vote.